Tags: Sean Spicer | NY Times | Nunes | Russia

Sean Spicer Won't Comment on Times Report on Nunes and Russian Data

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By    |   Thursday, 30 Mar 2017 03:57 PM

White House spokesman Sean Spicer Thursday refused to comment on a report in The New York Times that two administration officials provided information on incidental surveillance collection last week that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes disclosed to the media and to President Donald Trump.

"Your question assumes that the reporting is correct," Spicer told one reporter at the daily press briefing, telling another later that "to comment on that story would be to validate certain things that I'm not at liberty to do."

The Times reported that Nunes, the California Republican, obtained the information from Ezra Cohen-Watnick, senior director of intelligence on the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who once worked for the chairman but who now serves in the White House Counsel's office.

Nunes has refused to disclose the sources of his information, which he has not disclosed to other committee members — though he has announced the data to the press and has shared it with Trump in a private visit at the White House.

The chairman's defiance has led Democrats, including committee vice chairman Rep. Adam Schiff — also of California — and at least one Republican, to call for Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian activities during last year's election.

In several exchanges, some growing testy at times, Spicer questioned the credibility of the Times dispatch and told reporters that the White House has invited the chairmen of both the House and Senate intelligence panels to view the data in a classified setting.

He also slammed reporters for being preoccupied with process versus substance regarding the surveillance information.

"The reason that the White House has asked them to come up is to view the information," Spicer told one reporter. "I don't want to get in front of that.

"We are not as obsessed with the process as much as the substance — and I think our goal is to make sure that the ranking members of both committees, as well as the chairman, see the information that is important to this and worry about the outcome at the end.

"Our view was that the smart move was to make all the materials available to the chairman and the ranking member of the relevant committees — and I understand the obsession with the process piece," Spicer later said.

"But we are focused on the substance of it — and the goal is to make sure people have the substance."

By inviting both Intelligence Committee leaders to the White House, "it sends a message that we want them to look into this," the spokesman said.

"There's a belief that the president has maintained that there was surveillance during the 2016 election that was improper — and we want people to take the legal, responsible steps to both understand it and then address it."

During one exchange with Major Garrett of CBS News, an exasperated Spicer said: "That your obsession with who talked to whom and when is not the answer here. It should be the substance.

"In the same way that when you guys print a story with 18 anonymous stories, your obsession is the substance," he said. "It seems now that you continue to look at it from a backwards prism, which is: 'What happened? Who drove in what gate? What were they wearing that day?' as opposed to what's the underlying substance of this."

In one bit of information on the issue, however, Spicer said that he did not know who provided Nunes with the incidental collection information on the White House grounds last week.

"Do you know who provided Chairman Nunes with the information?" asked April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks.

"No, I don't," Spicer responded.

"You don't know?"

"No."

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White House spokesman Sean Spicer Thursday refused to comment on a report in The New York Times that two administration officials provided information on incidental surveillance collection last week that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes disclosed to the...
Sean Spicer, NY Times, Nunes, Russia
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2017-57-30
Thursday, 30 Mar 2017 03:57 PM
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